FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

General Queries

1Is Dubai truly tax-free?

In most of the cases Dubai is completely tax-free:

  • No tax on the gained profits for legal entities.
  • No income tax for company owners and employees.
  • Dubai has a simplified financial reporting system which means there is no need to carry out annual audits.
2What is the minimum investment required to set-up a business or company in Dubai?

There is no limit to the investment required to set-up a business in Dubai. Depending on the activities of your business, investing partners, the location of your business etc. You can invest as much or as little as you want to keep in mind the benefit of your employees and anyone involved in the business.

3What is the process of setting up a business in Dubai?

Licensing to carry out business activities in Dubai happens in three stages.

  • Initial approval where an individual or a company submits an application for approval of the activities intended for the said business.
  • Ensuring all legal requirements are met by the investor. This includes authentication of the investor’s identification, educational qualifications and all financial matters involved in the establishment of the business.
  • Verification of the business premises and issuance of the investor visa.
4What is the difference between free zone and mainland business setup?

Dubai and other emirates have allowed foreign investors to set up business in different areas of Dubai without the help of any local sponsor. These areas are called Free zone. However, Free zone entities can carry out their operations within the specified zone. This is a problem for companies whose target market is Dubai / UAE. However, you can appoint distributors, local agents or brokers for local markets. Setting up business in mainland requires a UAE National as a sponsor.

The business structure is different than that of setting up in the free zone. The sponsor must own 51% of the total shares however law allows the local sponsor to grant complete power of attorney to the foreign national and avoid any involvement in the operations of the business.

5What are visa requirements for investors and employees while setting up a company in Dubai?

Depending on the company type, there are different types of visa requirements in Dubai. To live and work in Dubai, every foreign national need a residence visa and, In order to employ staff in your organization the manager of the company must have a residence visa which will then allow the company to recruit staff. Offshore incorporations do not require a residence visa as these do not entitle the holder to do business in UAE. Free zone incorporations allow for the issuance of residence visas depending on the size of the establishment.

6How long does it take to start a company in Dubai?

It can take as little as five days or can take up to six weeks to start your business in Dubai depending on the company type and structure. Company registration is the initial step of which it is a matter of gathering all documentation.

7Do the documents needed for setting up a company need to be notarized or attested?

All documents required for the issuance of residence visa and company registration need to be attested by the UAE embassy or consulate in the country of document origin. Furthermore, the same documents need to be attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UAE in Dubai.

8What benefits are there by setting up a company in Dubai?

Dubai is the financial hub in the Middle East. Thanks to its two ports, Dubai dominates the cargo and re-export markets. For over 20 years, Dubai economy has shown substantial growth with investment pouring in from all corners of the globe. It is also home to two major airlines Emirates and FlyDubai, with emirates being one of biggest airlines in the world. Apart from this, Dubai has a very large physical infrastructure spread all over the state with all kinds of services available almost everywhere.

9What kind of legal framework is in Dubai for setting up a business?

Dubai has an entirely different set of laws for foreign investors who are setting up their businesses in Dubai. Paperwork and legal requirements are minimal and procedures are fast tracked so that it is extremely easy to set up a company, licensing and registration. Moreover, Dubai has laws and rules for hiring employees and their benefits are protected.

10What kind of physical infrastructure is provided for foreign investors?

Dubai has probably the largest physical infrastructure in the region for businesses. The governing bodies of Free Zones provide excellent warehousing, office spaces, and other services.

11What kind of manpower is available in Dubai? Can I hire people from my own country for my business?

People from more than 200 nationalities live and work in Dubai. There is no shortage of manpower in UAE. Both skilled and unskilled labor come to Dubai in search of work opportunity. Once you have established a country, you can either hire from the pool already available in Dubai or you can opt to hire people from your country of origin after fulfilling legal requirements.

12What kind of support and promotion is available by the Government of Dubai?

The Government of Dubai and UAE provide all kinds of support for establishing a company or investing in UAE, like help with documents, licenses and so on.

13Is Dubai an Open Trading Hub?

Yes. More than three-quarters of goods entering the emirate are duty- free. Free trade zones in Dubai offer incentives to imports including exemptions from taxes and duties. The open border foreign trade policy has proved a major factor in allowing small businesses to expand.

14What kind of lifestyle and culture does Dubai have?

Dubai has been one of the top places to live in. It is also recognized as the fastest growing cities in the world and has the lowest crime rate. The emirate is home to several architectural wonders. Lifestyle in Dubai has always been ranked at the top of the index.

Free zone company

1Can a free zone company hold its offices outside the free zone?
As per the ruling issued in 2011, entities (a free zone company or a free zone establishment) operating in free zones can open branches in Dubai. As per Law No. 13 of 2011 on business registration and licensing in the Emirate, it was announced that free zone companies are allowed to conduct business within Dubai (outside their free zone) once they have a DED license or set up a branch in mainland Dubai.
2Can a free zone company do business or trade outside the free zone?
A freezone entity can do business in the Rest of GCC and Internationally from its freezone setup. Also, law no. 13 issued in 2011, states that free zone companies can set up a branch in Dubai to trade legally, without the need of a local sponsor. They will, however, need to have a local service agent. According to the law, the local service agent can be a UAE national or a UAE company which will sponsor employees for the Dubai branch of a free zone company at the Ministry of Labour. The local service agent will have no rights of voting or decision-making in the company.
3Can I obtain financing in Dubai?
Various private sources like banks and investment groups provide financing options, given the entity is more than 2 years old and the business owner is a resident of UAE. Neither the Government of Dubai/UAE nor the Free Zone authority will provide any financing.
4Can I transfer or receive money from outside UAE/Dubai?
As per UAE Laws, you are allowed to receive or transfer capital and profits outside the country.
5How many free zones are there in Dubai?
There are more than 40 Free Zones operating in UAE, with over 20 freezones in Dubai alone. IBG Consulting can make things simple for you by helping you choose the right freezone for your business.
6What are the advantages of a free zone company?
  • No income or capital gain tax.
  • No corporate tax.
  • No duties on imports or exports.
  • 100% foreign ownership.
  • No recruitment problems as Dubai has a large number of skilled professionals and un-skilled labor.
  • Attractive working environment.
  • No restrictions on currency.
  • Excellent support services from free zone authorities and the Government of Dubai.
7Can I own land or property in a free zone?
Yes you can lease the property where your business is located in the free zone.
8What activities are allowed in Dubai free zones?
Dubai has a number of free zones each with its own sector preference. Their facilities, rules and regulations may also vary. For example, Jebel Ali Free Zone and Dubai Airport Free Zone allow activities such as import, export, packaging, manufacturing, processing, storage and logistics. Dubai Healthcare City is the hub for healthcare related businesses. Depending on your business/company/trade type, you can choose which free zone suits you.
9Are there any minimum investment required to set up a company?
Different free zones have different minimum capital requirements to set up a free zone company. The amount may vary according to the type of the business. On average you will require at least AED 150,000 to set up a free zone company. The amount may vary from one free zone to another.
10Is annual audit compulsory for a Free Zone company?
Depending on the company type and the free zone laws, you may or may not require an annual audit. Every free zone has its own laws and regulation.

Offshore company

1What is an offshore company?
An offshore company is an independent legal entity with limited liability and must have atleast one shareholder. The liability of the partners or shareholders is limited to their capital contribution.
2What is offshore business process outsourcing?
Offshore business process outsourcing means running business from home country and exporting the services by a foreign-based company having lower labor rates and more tax saving.
3What are main advantages of an offshore company?

An offshore company offers you a list of advantages:

  • Operating costs are reduced while increasing overall profit of the company.
  • Outsourcing of desired talents and skills optimizes the efficiency of the company.
  • Core competencies are polished with more productivity.
  • Higher value is created with re-allocation of the internal resources.
  • Problematic and tough functions are efficiently managed.
  • Internal issues are rightly addressed with a cost-effective approach.
4How can we classify offshore companies?

There are two broad categories of offshore companies:

  • The companies that enjoy exempt from taxation according to the jurisdiction based on the reason that the person doing business was not the resident in that jurisdiction.
  • The companies which do not fall under offshore jurisdiction that do not impose any taxation on them and thus, these companies are de facto tax-exempt.
5What are salient features of the offshore companies?

Though all offshore companies are different in their nature and according to the corporate law of the individual country, they carry certain features:

  • In the home country, they are not subject to taxation.
  • Being not subject to taxation does not mean that they are tax-exempt abroad as well.
  • In the developed countries, regulation of corporate activities is heavier while in under-developed countries, it is lighter.
  • Information about the offshore company is generally restricted or hidden from the public and this limitation depends on the jurisdiction of the country. Most of the jurisdictions on international level have laws to keep an access to the information both locally and offshore.
  • Most of the offshore jurisdictions have removed corporate restraints like constraint on corporate capacity and profit, limit on capitalization, and strict rules on financial assistance.
  • Special corporate provisions have been introduced and enacted to attract businesses and special mechanism has been made to create smoothness to allow complicated business transactions.
6What are the uses of offshore companies?
  • Offshore companies are made to offer services to private and commercial sector. Some of them are beneficial and legitimate but most of them are under harsh criticism in the media because they are reported as hiding the white collar crime such as fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion.
  • They are used in a large variety of transactions like listing vehicles, joint ventures, and holding companies.
  • Private wealth is handled with offshore companies for privacy and tax mitigation.
  • Their usage in tax planning has met with controversial debates worldwide. Therefore, prestigious companies are avoiding offshore to save themselves from negative impression and criticism in home country and abroad.
  • Another intermediate and legitimate use of offshores is private health holding vehicles and investment funds.
  • Offshoring is also used as a part of business process.
7Why is the status of offshore companies opaque?
It is commonly believed that offshore companies are used to preserve the confidentiality of an individual’s black money. The reason behind this perception is that no clear information on their functioning is available and they are hard to contact which makes them questionable and dubious. Otherwise, their legitimate uses are seen in the form of trading vehicles, financing SPVs, holding companies, joint ventures, and asset holding structures.
8Is there a requirement for physical offices for an offshore company?
The company does not need to maintain a physical presence in the freezone but is required to have a registered agent, whose address must be listed as the registered address for the offshore company in the place of its incorporation.
9What are the hidden costs of offshoring if any?
Offshoring aims at cost reduction in terms of tax and labor expenditures. So the companies do not generally bother about the other hidden costs of travelling, training, and communication. Since they plan for long term business, they have to bear with the business relationship costs.
10Define vertical market expertise in offshore companies?
Onshore providers are generally process experts of the local market and they control the processes of financial services, transportation, health care, and distribution channels. Thus they have complete market insight and are an inevitable part of business process offering business transformation competence.
11What is the public policy on offshore companies?
Some of the companies have faced adverse criticism from the customers who have confronted the offshore processing. It is not easy to convince the customers that the information they shared in an offshore is secured. Difference of regulations, banking laws, cultures, and languages is also a challenge. Therefore, such differences have resulted in undesired outcomes and it has led to new laws and public policies worldwide to penalize the companies that use offshoring rather than onshoring. Such laws impact the industry sector, data regulation, transfer tax structure, transaction taxes, privacy, income tax, and compliance with the public company.
12What do current offshoring laws require?
Current laws restrict the clients to disclose their locations (for example call centers), to show the place of contract with the government, to open the limited financial data and medical details of the offshore housing.
13Define labor arbitrage in offshore companies?
The main purpose of offshoring is to reduce costs through lower labor rates for getting the work done. The labor arbitrage is the difference of labor cost that is present between the home country and where the work is being done in another country. Difference of currency plays a vital role in the labor arbitration. For example, dollar is much higher in value than the currency of the developing nations. Therefore, labor from the abroad is hired to perform the given tasks and incorporation of lower costs serve the main purpose of an offshore company.
14What are the areas of operation for the offshore companies?
Generally, offshores are not allowed to trade under the jurisdiction where they are registered. In some countries, they have no such constraint and are free to trade within the country or abroad under the jurisdiction therein.
15What is the degree of anonymity in offshore companies?
Secrecy is the first and foremost thing offered by offshore companies. They protect your business from the outside world and keep it anonymous to make it difficult for any individual or the government institutions to trace it. They engage the nominees to be nominated not as companies but as individuals.
16Are there any public disclosure requirements?
Privacy is one of the most important factors. Offshore companies keep the least burden of disclosing personal and financial information of the clients. Only a few or even no documents are maintained in the statutory books in many offshore countries. Any changes in the offshore company do not have to be reported to the centrally maintained register of that country.
17What are offshore banks?
Offshore banks is the term used for a range of banking, credit, and financial institutions that hold the financial side of the offshore company outside the country. These are the banks dealing anything relating to the offshore activities of the clients. The term is also used for tax-havens i.e. the banks regulated under fiscal and liberal legislation.
18What do the offshore banks do?

Formation of these banks and financial institutions aims at:

  • Opening the corporate as well as personal bank accounts of the clients and providing them all related services
  • Working on insurance and investment money
  • Granting of loans to the clients
  • Working with leasing and loan products
  • Repurchasing and sales of debt obligations
19Why offshore banks?

Offshore banks are preferred by the clients with offshore companies because these banks:

  • Dilute the risk of political instability in the country.
  • Have a sounder banking system that is smoother than the other banks.
  • Have the currency that is diversified.
  • Protect you from the legal restraints and government agencies that have the summary power to freeze the assets when they want.
  • Offer a higher rate of interest on your deposits.
  • Enable you to get medical care abroad in case of medical emergency.
  • Keep and maintain your privacy in a limited way.
  • Are quick in their processing.
  • Ensure your personal freedom and liberate you from the government control on your destiny.
  • Provide you complete peace of mind with no risk from the bankruptcy of the government.
20What is the activities permitted for an offshore company?
Offshore companies are generally used as investment vehicles or holding companies. They are not permitted to conduct business operations onshore in UAE or within the relevant freezone. However, they can freely conduct business outside the UAE and can also enter into contracts with legal consultants, lawyers, accountants and auditors. It is also permitted to lease property and use it as a registered office or own real property in limited areas such as Palm Islands or Jumeirah Island, or any property approved by the relevant freezone authority.
21What are the management requirements for an offshore company?
All the power of management for an offshore company generally rests with the board of directors and a general manager is typically not appointed. The board may choose to delegate certain powers as they see appropriate, under a power of attorney.
22What are the minimum capital requirements for an offshore company?
The capital requirements for an offshore company vary according to the jurisdiction it is based in, with a minimum capital requirement of atleast AED 10,000.

Onshore company

1What is an onshore company? What is its key function?
An onshore company is a company that incorporates in a particular region or country along with its business operations in another country according to all of its tax filing requirements and other legal compliances. Unlike offshore companies that intend to do business seeking for tax and legal benefits in a country, onshore companies keep their business process utilizing the resources of the home country.
2What is onshore outsourcing?
Onshore outsourcing is also called near-shore outsourcing or domestic outsourcing. It is a process that involves one or more business processes or services of an external but local company. With onshore outsourcing, companies utilize their services, products, supports, contacts and other operations. It helps the companies reduce their support staff and internal infrastructure while keeping themselves complied with the legal and operational requirements of business.
3Who is the owner of an onshore company?
A beneficiary is the owner of an onshore company whereas ownership may formally belong to someone else. It is kept veiled and the information about the ownership is provided only to the concerned banks and the agent responsible for the registration.
4Who will be the owner if nominee shareholders are appointed?
Nominee shareholders are the persons who are officially registered and recognized as owners of the company. Thus they work at front desk offering their services while the actual owners confidentially keep themselves at the back end. Nominee shareholders are not entitled to issue and manage any instructions; they are to ensure the confidentiality of the actual owners.
5Is the beneficiary of the company the actual owner?
Yes, beneficiary is the actual owner who receives the income of the company.
6What are benefits of onshore companies?

These are the remarkable benefits of onshore companies:

  • Operating costs are more controlled and reduced.
  • Strategic imperatives of the company are more concentrated.
  • Higher value is obtained through a better allocation of internal resources of the company.
  • Better understanding of internal resources and core competencies is achieved.
  • World-class talents and capabilities are accessed with this global approach.
  • A deep insight of the limitation of internal resources is obtained.
  • Difficult problems and complications are addressed in a more effective way.
  • An onshore company provides an optimal conditions to successfully run the business in the home country as well as outside the country.
  • Transformation efforts for the business are accelerated to optimize the business process.
  • Residency visas are easier to obtain because of an onshore company.

Some countries facilitate the owners of onshore companies with extra perks like:

  • No Value-added Tax (VAT)
  • No corporate taxation
  • No regulation on currency exchange
  • Supporting environment and growth opportunities
  • Stable economic conditions
  • Complete and exclusive ownership of company by the foreign national
  • No particular requirements as shareholder, residency, directorship, and citizenship
  • Complete repatriation of profits and the capital
7What will be the residence benefits for the owners of onshore companies?
  • Both owner and employees have an equal opportunity to get residency visa when you are registered with an offshore company.
  • Onshore company be will authorized to conduct its business operations.
  • Onshore companies are free to carry their business operation in the country as well as outside the country.
8How can you constitute an offshore company?
Forming up of an onshore company requires a business license that is issued after submitting the documents as under:
  • CV carrying complete information and qualification for the desired business in a particular domain
  • Copies of the passport
  • Utility bills of last three months
  • Business outline and course of business process
  • Recommendation letter issued by a banking authority
  • Bank statement since last 6 months
  • Any other supporting document for operating business on international level
9What is withholding tax?
Tax on any business depends on the tax rates defined by the government of that country. Tax information is available on the websites of every country. Withholding tax is a tax that is charged on the income generated through a business whereas interests, dividends, and royalties are applied. Generally, companies have to pay withholding tax.
10What to do with an onshore company, if you do not need it anymore?
If you do not need your onshore company anymore, you cannot discontinue it overnight. Dropping it needs to follow the policy and legal procedures of the particular country that will take hold of the liquidation of that company and liabilities according to the jurisdiction.
11What are the hidden costs of onshore companies?
Onshore companies often have costs of training the staff, travel, and communication lower than the offshore companies where there is a risk of overseas engagement.
12Why is vertical market expertise needed?
Some of the companies require an outsource provider for vertical market expertise to fulfil their unique needs. The offshore provider model focuses on the volume of specific process transactions against different segments in an industry.
13What is permanent establishment? When is it obtained?

If someone wants an onshore company in another country, he should have to register the company with a partner resident of that country. It will be under foreign ownership and the owner will require a license from the relevant government authorities of that country. Apart from registering the onshore company, such activities in different countries are also subject to license:

  • Production processes.
  • Tourism.
  • Trading companies trading in different items.
  • Logistics, supply chains, and transportation facilities.
  • Services provided to the public and businesses.
These activities are subject to registration as a company in the domestic market with permanent establishment.
14What is the process of liquidation of an onshore company to drop it?
To liquidate a company, you will have to pay the annual maintenance fee and a prior notice to the agent of the company is also a must. The agent starts the process of liquidation and once a company that is removed from data, cannot be registered again. If the process of liquidation is not followed and there is any violation found, penalties can be imposed. Company’s accounts in the banks will be closed and resident visa may be cancelled.
15Can we convert an offshore company to an onshore company?
Offshore and onshore companies are different in their registration, documentation, procedures, and other processes. Therefore, it is almost impossible to change the status of an offshore company to an onshore.

UAE Investor

1Which business sectors have the highest success rate in UAE?
Real estate, travel and tourism, facility management, maintenance, economy Islamic, electronics, renewable and alternative energy, medical tourism, education and manufacturing are among the most promising sectors in UAE.
2Do immigration laws differ from one Dubai to Abu Dhabi?
Immigration rules and regulations vary from one Emirate to the other. For example, the zone authorities differ in Dubai, but the rest of the main immigration rules are all the same as other Emirates.
3What is the language requirement for submitting documents and application?
Arabic and English are the primary languages accepted for documents and application in UAE.
4Is it possible to acquire business licensing while being outside UAE?
No. It is not possible to acquire business licensing from outside UAE. Business licensing requires the investor to attain Emirates ID which is only possible if the investor completes registration while in UAE.
5Is it compulsory to live in UAE to secure an office there?
Free zones allow 100% foreign ownership without the owner’s presence in the country. However, it is mandatory to have a General Manager looking after the office in the owner’s absence.
6What is a free zone?
A free trade zone is a tax free zone created for facilitating international business dealings. These free economic zones allow 100% ownership and hold their own specific rules and regulations depending on the Emirate.
7What are the advantages of establishing a company in free zone of UAE?

Registering your company in UAE gives you

  • 100% ownership of your investment
  • 100% return of capital and profits
  • No import and export duties charged
  • Exemption from corporate tax and dividend tax
  • Access to better infrastructure and skilled labor
  • Cheap energy and 24 hours a day work operations
8What is mainland company?
A mainland company is a non free zone setup registered with Department of Economic development (DED) that allows the investor to freely conduct business operations in any area within UAE. To make this setup happen, a UAE national must sponsor the venture giving him 51% ownership of the company.
9What are the advantages of establishing a mainland company?

Registering your company with the government body (DED) gives you the following benefits

  • Conduct business in any part of UAE
  • Better deals in renting offices and warehouses
  • Foreign equity remains stable at 49%
  • No yearly auditing and no corporate tax
  • Gets investor visa and invite family to live them in UAE
  • Investor becomes partner in the business
  • Easily get employee visas for foreign labor
10Is acquiring mainland company license difficult?
In order to obtain a DED mainland or non-free zone license, you have to go through a lot more documentation and formalities than free zone license. It is a lengthy procedure that requires signature of your sponsor as well.
11What is the minimum investment required to start a business setup in Dubai Free Zone?
To start a free zone limited liability company in Dubai (FZ-LLC) with the least capital, you need to consider first the level of activity your company does. According to the latest cost analysis, the current minimum cost ranges from AED 20.000 – 25.000 p.a.
12Which legal form is recommended for registering a business in the UAE free zone?

Choosing legal form for your company again depends on your business type, level of activity, number of owners, nationality of owners and ownership criterion. Three most common forms are:

  • Free Zone Establishment (FZE) which allows only one shareholder
  • Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ-LLC) in which allows multiple shareholders
  • Branch Office
13What are the major free zones in Dubai?
  • Dubai Airport Free Zone
  • Dubai Flower Centre
  • Dubai International Financial Centre
  • Dubai Auto Zone
  • Dubai Gold and Diamond Park
  • Dubai Healthcare City
  • Dubai Logistics City
  • Dubai Knowledge Village
  • Dubai Outsource Zone
  • Dubai Multi Commodity Centre
  • Jebel Ali Free Zone
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis
  • International Humanitarian City
  • Techno Park
14What is the average time taken to erect a company in UAE?
It partly depends on the rules and regulations of the free zone, and partly if the business has individual or corporate shareholders. However, the average time taken to get a business up and running is in between 3-6 weeks.
15What are the primary documents required to setup a company in the UAE?

The primary documentation is based on the following provisions

  • Application form
  • Passport copy of shareholder(s)
  • Memorandum of Association
  • Article of Association
  • Chamber of Commerce Extract
  • Board Resolution (if needed)

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